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Housing

Understand Your Rights as a Renter

CollegiateParent


Your student does have rights that should be respected, especially if they fulfill their own responsibilities as a tenant. 

Many of a tenant’s rights and responsibilities will be spelled out in the lease (another reason to encourage your student to read their lease CAREFULLY before signing, and to share it with you so you can look it over, too).

Pass this advice along to your college student who is moving, or has moved, off campus!

1. Do I have a right to get my full security deposit back?

Your security deposit should be returned in full if you vacate the unit in the condition it was in when you took occupancy. This means repairing damage (including any done by a pet) and cleaning the unit thoroughly (or having it professionally cleaned) when you move out.

You must also pay your rent on time and give adequate notice before you move out; otherwise the landlord can use your deposit to cover unpaid rent.

If the full security deposit isn’t returned, you have the right to receive an itemized list of any deductions. In some states, the deposit must be returned with interest within a certain number of days. Check your state law! (See below.)

2. Does my landlord need to ask permission to enter my apartment/house?

In general, you have the right to live undisturbed in your rental home and typically a landlord must give 24 hours’ notice, in writing, along with a valid reason to enter (for example, to make a repair). Of course, in an emergency you may need someone to come in and help you right away.

Check to see if there is a “privacy clause” in your lease. State law will define the exact rules.

3. If something breaks, who fixes it? What about bugs?

You have a right to live in a comfortable, environmentally sound residence where plumbing and appliances work, windows and doors function properly (and locks are changed before you move in so you can be sure no one else has a key), the roof doesn’t leak, etc.

As part of your lease agreement, your landlord must respond promptly to requests for repairs. Don’t wait to make a request — something minor could become something major, which isn’t good for either of you. If you have an infestation that you did not introduce (like mice or bedbugs), your landlord must address the problem immediately — ideally by hiring a professional exterminator.

If your landlord doesn’t respond promptly to a request to make a minor repair, you may have the right to fix it yourself and withhold the amount from rent, but check your lease and state law first!

4. Do I have a right to be safe in my home?

Yes, and if the condition of the property — inside or out — makes injury likely, or if the landlord is negligent about repairs to the unit that might make it easier for someone to break in, the landlord may be liable. If another tenant’s noise or behavior is a problem, you have a right to request that your landlord deal with this.

Your landlord also has a responsibility to mitigate any potential environmental hazards (mold, etc.) and install/maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

5. Can I have a pet in my rental? Can I smoke/vape?

You only have a right to have the kind of pet that is allowed by your lease, and landlords often prohibit all pets or pets of certain sizes, types and/or breeds. Landlords must not prohibit service animals (per the Americans with Disabilities Act). Most likely you will need to pay an additional pet security deposit.

Your lease will indicate whether smoking/vaping is permitted on the property.

6. Can the landlord change the terms of my lease?

Not without both of you agreeing on a change in writing. If the landlord sells the property, the new owner must respect the terms of your lease for the duration.

Landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains a state-by-state listing of Tenants Rights on their website. Find your state here.
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